Yesterday was the death anniversary of one of the most distinguished persons the Philippines ever produced: Haydee Bofill Yorac.

Shortly before her death, she was a Commissioner of the Presidential Commission on Good Government tasked to recover the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth. Under her watch, the PCGG had several accomplishments to justify its existence. She left that body on account of illness but the nation believed that she was pressured into resigning by an administration dancing beautiful tango with the Marcoses.

Yorac was also a COMELEC Commissioner. In 1986, when Marcos was pressuring the COMELEC to rig election results, she led a walk out. It is heartening to know that the COMELEC, after all, had its moments of glory. Now the body has gone to the most stinking gutter after the Hello, Garcinungaling scandal and COMELEC Chair Abalos' involvement in the highly anomalous ZTE deal with the Philippine government.

A human rights lawyer, Yorac was courageous and outspoken. She opposed the Marcos' dictatorship and was jailed for it. Above all, she was like Caesar’s wife: beyond reproach. In 2004, she was a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service. Accepting the award, she said: "Our values and personal convictions dictate the direction that we take and the stand that we make on moral issues that affect our work, in particular, and the country, in general. The desire to make government more effective and efficient in its mandate of good governance is of paramount importance. It is the driving force that compels many of us to accept responsibilities in government, despite the odds."

As A UP Law Professor, she was known for putting presidential daughter Imee Marcos in the latter’s rightful place: a mere student. It is said that she prevented Imee’s bodyguards from entering her class.

I am honored to have been a student of the Great One. She was my professor in Obligations and Contracts, a five unit-killer law subject. In the University of the Philippines, professors required students in civil law subjects to use commentaries by Arturo Tolentino which frizzy-haired Yorac called “the best of the bad law books.” Paras was banned. Yorac went as far as saying that anyone caught using Paras would be booted out of the classroom. Paras books started to be rejected by my mental process. I could not understand them. When I started to teach civil law subjects, I forbade my students from using Paras.

She would say, “That is a flash of brilliance!” when a particular discussion of Tolentino was superb.

In her class, we were like a cat on a hot tin roof. The Great One administered one-on-one oral examinations, with you standing in front of her for some twenty minutes. She would grill you and her facial expression or the absence of it would be no help. We feared her, until the fear metamorphosed into reverence. I was never the studious type. After all, our UP Law Professors were mostly “finalists” who based the grades on the final examination. I would burn the candle before the final examinations. Literally, too at one time when the Republic of Diliman was plunged in darkness by a super typhoon that uprooted a big tree in front of our dorm. But I read for the Great One’s subject. Every night. At times, I would read even while at work in Congress. The objective was not a high grade, it was to do the Great One’s efforts justice. It paid off: At the end of the semester I was one of the top two in her class, the other one being Tina Benipayo who would eventually graduate valedictorian.

One time, we discussed a case about a naïve young woman who was promised marriage by a much older man. Apparently, the man had been visiting the home of the girl. On the pretext of teaching the girl how to pray the rosary, he convinced her parents to let her go with him. They slept together and she got pregnant.

Eric, a philosophy instructor in Diliman, raised his hand and asked, “How did the girl get pregnant if they only slept together?” Yorac’s eyes enlarged, and then with a face that would not betray her amusement, she blurted: Mr. ___, sleeping together means not sleeping at all.” We had a good laugh. Her facial expression remained stoic. She never laughed at her own jokes. At one time, a student could not answer her question. Edgy, he just kept staring at her. As if taunting him, Yorac kept staring back. Then the unmarried Great One said after what seemed like an eternity, “Mr. ___, let’s stop staring at each other. We might fall in love.” The giggle that the class had been stifling was let loose like a powerful waterfall. I remember how the big-bodied Mel Velasco roared in laughter.

The Great One is in the Great Beyond. In these times when corruption is at its highest and vilest, when it seems to be the norm in government, we miss her terribly. We search for Haydee Yoracs. And we are disappointed that no one in the top level comes close. Most of them dirtied their hands. Most of them are following the leader of the pack.

Haydee Yorac will always be my idol. She will live long after she died.


This morning, I sent this text message to friends: "My gut feel is politics, not justice, will prevail today. Erap will be convicted for a lesser offense. GMA will be happy-though not ecstatic- for the conviction; Erap will be happy for the lesser crime. Text later to jeer or cheer. Any decision, though, will have no bearing on our quality of life."

Erap got 40 years and I got a wake-up call that I'm no political psychic. None of my friends texted to jeer, perhaps not wanting to rub salt on a wounded ego. To my defense, even Madam Auring wrongly predicted her victory when she ran for an elective post! So what is the big deal? Let me off the hook already. Haha!

I still insist though that politics prevailed. I am not saying that Erap is innocent. Hey, I was a convenor of the Metro-Baguio Erap Resign Movement. An Erap acquittal would have been disastrous for the Filipino nation. It would have rubbished the people power demonstrated by the masses (which Rene Saguisag insists on calling the mob.) in 2000-2001. Erap would be vindicated. It would confirm beyond cavil what we already know: that the justice system in this country mercilessly operates against the poor, but the rich are triumphantly insulated from its wrath. The doubting Thomases could go the way of the vanishing Filipino crocodile - and I mean the ones native to Palawan that stop gobbling when their hunger is sated.

An Erap acquittal would also have spelled more disaster for the Arroyo administration which writhes from a hopeless chronic credibility problem even as its legitimacy continues to be haunted by the Hello, Garcinungaling scandal. The Erap cult would be rejuvenated more than ever, and they would be more audacious in launching destabilization (I did not say revolutionary or Bonifacioic) efforts. Certainly not good for the Makati Business Club. Etcetera.

Erap's camp is firm that to begin with, there never was any evidence to prove his guilt beyond moral certainty. Granting that it is right, the Sandiganbayan must have been caught between a rock and hard place. It chose the rock. Or the hard place. Whatever, it chose the politically correct one. (And my eyebrow would not be raised if one or more of the justices will be appointed to the Court of Appeals, or the Supreme Court.)

Even before today, political psychics (the ones with track record and self-proclaimed ones like myself) were saying that if Erap would end up in a loop, he would be pardoned by the Palace like the prodigal son, complete with a feast and a new wardrobe. But Erap pre-empted any official offer of pardon: he would reject it because he is innocent and the Filipino people have acquitted him anyway. I do not know how he secured a popular acquittal after the enlightened crowd convicted him in 2001. I was probably out of this country or holed up in a health facility- in coma- when it happened. His repudiation of pardon offers rings hollow in my ears, even in their unclean state. I still remember how his close allies (except my classmate now Sen. Chiz Escudero and others) voted or made themselves scarce when they were confronted with the impeachment question in the House of Representatives. Prior to the casting of votes, they were deafeningly noisy in their lurid rhetorics against the self-appointed Queen as though the success of the GMA, Step Down! Movement rested on their shoulders. But when the official count began, they were either absent or good as absent. Coincidentally, they met with Erap, then fervently praying for a house arrest, in his Veteran (?) lair shortly before!

So something is brewing and it is a recipe detrimental to the welfare of the Filipino people.

In the case of Erap, his acquittal and his conviction are not opposites; they are two sides of the same coin. Like Erap and Gloria.

Like a hole in the head, neither is good for the Filipino people.


I wrote this while watching in a wellness facility the live telecast of Erap's sentencing (Would you believe that a senior citizen suffering from arthritis was actually in tears? Gosh, I almost shed tears myself not for Erap but because her tears, to me, are a pathetic display of the unenlightened's internalization of their oppression.):


On the streets, fury seeks wisdom
Injustice complains
Justice weeps in a corner
One got ten pies
And left ten to a hungry hundred
Inside ivory towers,
dreams are being burned
robberies are being schemed
gold is being eaten by the epicurean
In the slums, old men cough
Children eat air and drink hunger
while mothers bake pan de sal
in their imagination
Our viewdeck trembles
We watched this
In another place
In another time
From a dim corner,
our destination is


Deconstructing The Club's Outcry

Yesterday, the Makati Business Club, with other economic forces in the country, denounced in a statement (see below) the "culture of impunity" pervading the Philippine bureaucracy. The Club, the fierce lion that regressed into a cub at the height of the "Hello, Garcinungaling" scandal, is particulary "appalled" at allegations of corruption and bribery involving the ZTE National Broadband Network deal. Jose de Venecia III admitted having been offered a bribe of $10M dollars by COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos, now better known as the ZTE Liaison Officer, to withdraw his company's bid in the said government project. Former NEDA Director General Romulo Neri could not categorically deny that he was offered a P250M bribe by the ZTE Liaison Officer. He opted not to say anything. Did this education czar think he was being cute in his pathetic attempt to be mysterious? The child could not see the Emperor's New Clothes as he could not see Neri's denial.

Let us go back to the Makati Business Club which bears most of the brunt of my ire today. It is appalled? Where has it been all this time? The masses are past being appalled. They are either more incensed or blissful in their apathy. This apathy was an escape route they took after rocks of misfortune were thrown their way several times and The Establishment could not help them any. Later on they would find out that it was The Establishment hurling rocks at them. Because The Club is appalled, it is calling on Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, self-appointed Queen of The Establishment, to heed "our pleas" and to "take immediate action to rectify blatant wrongdoings of public officials lest she be accused of condoning them."

If The Club has faith that Her Royal Highness will rectify blatant wrongdoings committed by her boys, we should stop wondering why we are going to the dogs. How can she clean a house she made dirtier than when she first moved in? She will spank the truant ZTE Liaison Officer, he will spill the beans on "Hello, Garcinungaling." If The Club will accuse HRH of condoning the public officials should she not heed the plea to take immediate action, it is way too late in its reaction. The enlightened population already accused her. She already condoned the corruption with her silence on the issue.

Why am I singling out The Club when the statement was issued by it with other powerful economic groups? It is a towering economic power in this country. Sure, its members who carry the blue blood of the national bourgeoisie are part of the oligarchy which holds the remote control that decides when those morons in Congress should sit or stand. In short, The Club is A Force. Karl Marx said that they who hold the economic power also hold the political power. If The Club wanted HRH impeached in 2005, she could have been impeached (That may be giving The Club far too much credit, but it was a possibility.). But no, it chose to play house with HRH in their own Garden of Eden, with the usual galit-bati routine, while the masses scavenged for food somewhere between hell and the desert. What was that about condemning HRH then making a turn-around saying there was a mistake? The shameful deal unraveling before our eyes right now would have been prevented by the success of the HRH Resign Movement whose failure The Club helped bring about. The failure of that movement sealed our fate: this is a nation where cheating is a way of life. Anybody else who disagrees is a deviant. Or worse, an aberration.

The movement failed because some of us chose to waltz with the dictator. And those some have forfeited the moral standing to say who should be crucified for this latest scandal of universal proportion!

The statement has its valid points, I must admit. I will just imagine that it was issued by the public school teachers who are far more credible than The Club.
  • xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Joint statement of Makati Business Club,Management Association of the Philippines,Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines,Foundation for Economic Freedom, Inc.,Action for Economic Reforms)

We are appalled that the culture of impunity among certain government officials appears to have spread to an extent exceeding that of all past administrations. This impunity seems also increasingly evident in many agencies of government.

A glaring example is that of COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos who had no business in allowing himself to be entertained by officials of ZTE Corporation, a potential contractor of the Republic, particularly considering he had an important electoral exercise to administer. His indiscreet conduct and absence from his official duties could only have happened if he believed he was immune from sanctions. We therefore reiterate our call for Chairman Abalos to resign. Dept. of Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza needs to think very carefully about the charges leveled against him by Congressman Carlos Padilla. Like other questionable projects, the ZTE deal will be rejected by the court of public opinion and, sooner or later, evaluated and ruled on by our own independent courts of law. Sec. Mendoza should prove his worth and rescind it now.

Should he choose not to do these, we would support a full investigation by the Senate of this highly questionable project given the huge expenditure of public funds involved. We also demand that the government publicly release a copy of the contract as mandated by Article III, Sec. 7 of our Constitution which states that “The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized.”

The secrecy about this project, despite repeated demands by the public, is contrary to the principle avowed by this Administration for complete transparency in matters of public interest and to the provisions of Republic Act 7925 which emphasizes that “public telecommunications services shall be provided by private enterprises.”

We are heartened by the courage of journalists and fiscalizers who bring to light the anomalous activities of public officials who believe they are protected by their position. We join them and encourage others in expressing public outrage at these questionable acts and the growing culture of political impunity.

We call on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to heed our pleas and take immediate action to rectify blatant wrongdoings of public officials, lest she be accused of condoning them.

Mother Teresa's Darkness and Light

The world is still trying to recover from shock, disillusionment , even devastation. Mother Teresa, world renowned figure, Nobel Peace Prize awardee, Ramon Magsaysay Awardee, and yes, the Living Saint when she was still alive, spent decades in spiritual emptiness!

This is revealed in her letters compiled in the book “Come Be My Light” edited and published by Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk, one of her spiritual advisers. He is also the nun’s postulator. (For the enlightenment of non-Catholics like me, a postulator is the principal petitioner for the canonization or recognition as saint of a Roman Catholic Church faithful.)

In one letter, the revered Mother Teresa said “In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me – of God not being God – of God not existing.” In another, she said, "If there be no God - there can be no soul. If there is no soul then Jesus - You also are not true. Heaven, what emptiness."

Mother Teresa’s journey to doubt must have begun in the late 1940’s when, then a cloistered nun teacher, she asked to be released by the Loreto sisters to set up the Missionaries of Charity. To do that, she had to struggle with her vow of obedience. With other nuns, she lived among the poor in Calcutta’s slums where she faced and battled against the curse of hunger, pain and desolation. Shortly after living among the poor, the demons of doubt started to torment her.

It is easy for me to understand her.

There was a time when in one day, I learned from the papers that an American woman drowned her babies to death, a man was hailed to the police station for raping his daughter who was his sex slave for year, and a typhoon left hundreds dead. And I wrote a poem that ended with the lines: “Did God flee from this world? Or did He go on a long vacation?” I will not print the poem here because it is so angry. My Mom whose faith in God is so deep will be saddened and, knowing her, she will worry over my spiritual health. She has enough worries over my physical health already.

I have not even seen one-third of the horrors Mother Teresa witnessed. Her smile, she said in one letter, was often a mask. The ironic thing is that while she was being tortured by doubts, people’s faith in God was drawing nourishment from her unparalleled work to alleviate the misery of Calcutta’s scourged. Other people preach the Gospel and talk about the existence of God; she opted to make her life colossally significant for others and by doing so, affirmed the presence of a Being higher than us. And yet in some of her letters, she referred to God as the Absent One. There she was- giving light to those whose lives were submerged in utter darkness. But within herself, she was wandering in spiritual limbo. In one letter, she said, “If ever I become a saint, I will surely be one of “darkness." That’s coming from the person who was a beacon of hope in a world of hopelessness.

None of us is competent to stand as judge of Mother Teresa’s spiritual salvation. That is for God to decide. But we can say that her life was the torch that kept the world from totally stumbling in its own darkness, the darkness forces within it created, the darkness from which we wrestle to be free.

What Wars Are; What They Are Not

A visit to the The Rain Maker, the blog of fellow Igorot Daniel Ted, inspires this piece today. His most recent post deals with war and peace.

My young Igorot American friend, Mark Leo is into a relentless campaign against the US- Iraq or any US-led war, or any war for that matter. In Bibaknets, a discussion forum of Igorots worldwide, he called everyone's attention to the plight of Pat Tillman. Tillman was a casualty of the US-led war versus Afghanistan. A professional football player, he gave up his sports career and enlisted in the United Stat,s army. He was joined by his brother Kevin. He must have believed that something good would come out of the US-led wars that he abandoned a lucrative profession. Others evaded the draft; this guy, however, sought it.

But Pat Tillman died in the war he believed in, sadly not as a hero but as a victim. His death was reported as the result of hostile fire or fire coming from the enemy. Perhaps due to his stature, his death generated a lot of publicity. Questions went beyond the surface until the Pentagon had to admit that he was killed by friendly fire. In harsher terms, he was killed by his own country, the country he went to serve in the battlefields of Afghanistan.

But let us go beyond Pat Tillman and the others who died in Operation Enduring Freedom which is America's military response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Filipino-American soldiers died in the US-led wars, too. The latest casualties of the Iraq war include Michael E. Tayaotao from California. His parents are from the Mountain Province, Philippines. You can read about him in Bill Bilig's From The Boondocks. So the tragedy is very real to us.

And, as though dying from a bullet fired by an assassin who might as well be one of us, we ask Richard North Patterson's Private Screening martyr James Kilcannon's question before he gave up the ghost: "Such a joke. But what does it mean?"

For Pat Tillman, I wrote some lines which I posted in 2006 in American blogs opposed to war:

Who Wins a War?

(to the memory of Pat Tillman)

Who will win the US-Iraq war? Who wins a war?
Does body count demarcate triumph from defeat?
Who won World War I? Who won World War II?

Who wins when limbs and torsos fly in the air?
Who wins when blood squirts profusely from the
belly of a baby who has no name yet,
hit by a stray bullet a day after its birth?
Who wins when civilians are maimed forever
to exist lifeless in the land of the living,
a merciless fate worse than death?
Who wins when a passer-by's brain explodes
while he is ruminating his son's future?
Who wins when women are raped to weaken foes?
Who wins when an entire village is reduced to
nothingness even ghosts cannot survive?

Victory in war is a tall tale, a gory monster tale.

Victory is mindless and random destruction.
Victory is food shortage, hunger, deprivation.
Victory is death, murder, genocide, ethnocide.
Victory is the massacre of innocent people.
Victory is orphaned defenseless boys and girls.
Victory is mothers and widows with broken hearts.
Victory is robbery of the dreams and future of
men and women who barely graduated
from the crib, compelled to render
military service to fight a senseless war.
Victory is the remorseless sacrifice of soldiers
like Pat Tillman in the cold, cold altar of
unquenchable thirst for power and gold.
Victory is recurrent nightmare for soldiers forced
to pull the trigger on fellow human beings.

Victory in war is the big, big lie always passed on
as the big, big truth that it is not.
Victory in war is the big, big truth seldom told as
the big, big lie that it is.

The only truth is defeat and material accumulation
for the manufacturers of death machines.
There are no winners, only losers and profiteers and
eternal curse for those who gain from the
tragedy of the human race, and the seed
of their loins up to the third generation.

Why do governments assign huge budgets
for firearms and death machines in the name
of peace, when peace is nothing but a stomach
that does not grumble from hunger and want?

If peace is the absence of war, why go to war
to have peace?

If peace is the presence of justice, why should it
be achieved through an innately unjust means?

Must we have wars at all? Must we live a lie?
Must we have wars at all? Must we live a lie?

-Cheryl L. Daytec, 22 October 06

Reexamining the Oppression of Indigenous Peoples

Bill Bilig's blog From The Boondocks tackles the plight of indigenous peoples in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya adversely affected by the operation of an Australian mining firm. You can read the article here.

This blog has a soft spot for indigenous peoples. Despite the feature by From The Boondocks I cannot shake off the urge to append a footnote in this blog.

By way of summary, an Australian firm, Oxiana, was given permit by the State to explore Kasibu for copper and gold. The area is inhabited by the Bugkalots who are natives of that place, Benguet Ibalois and Kankanaeys who migrated there after their lands were grabbed by the State to pave the way for the construction of the dams, and other indigenous peoples. The affected IPs are resisting the operation of Oxiana. They staged mass actions which turned violent because Oxiana let loose members of the CAFGU to subdue them.

The resistance tells us one thing-the IP's free prior and informed consent (FPIC) was not secured before Oxiana got its permit, as required under the Indigenous People's Rights Act (IPRA). Why did the local government not speak for the resident IP's? Why did the Department of Environment and Natural Resources indorse the permit of this brawny economic force? And where is the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples in the midst of this controversy? Why does the State seem unable to see the IPs in Kasibu? They are there. They exist. In flesh, in blood. Their mass action is their way of shedding off the veil of invisibility shrouding the vision of those in whose hands their fortune or misfortune resides. It is a struggle to be visible to the eyes that refuse to see.

The story of the IPs in Kasibu is not new. Indigenous peoples all over the world have one story - the plot is always a pattern of oppression authored by the bureaucratic apparatuses in collaboration with capitalist interests. All that is happening in Kasibu is atrocious to say the least. The government, instead of providing refuge to its constituents, is placing its resources at the disposal of the mining firm. Oxiana employed the CAFGU for its own vested interests! And the courts granted a temporary restraining order against the IPs, clearing Oxiana's bulldozers' path into the bowels of Kasibu. I can see Oxiana's long, sinister arms itching to abstract the gold and copper.

My heart goes out to the migrant Benguet IPs. They fled oppression in Benguet and sought refuge in Kasibu only to realize decades after that they they jumped out of the frying pan into a furnace waiting to burn. Very much like the Israelites who escaped slavery in Egypt to wander in the desert for forty long years!

IPs are intimate with Mother Nature. Regardless of time and space, the IPs' collective psyche concedes that the present generation is merely the steward of Nature for posterity. It is this belief that eliminates gluttony in their culture. Why natural wealth abounds in their territories should not be riddle. If it were up to them, their descending bloodline will never know hunger. But what they are saving for the generations centuries from now are what the capitalists are too agitated to exproriate in the name of profit. The big problem with capitalists is that no amount of profit is ever enough. Posterity be damned!

The natural wealth of IP territories makes them magnets of oppression and abuse everywhere. The capitalists (the economic force that controls the means of production) and States forged a dominant conspiracy to render the IPs defenseless, and their subjugation a foregone conclusion. Look at the IP's in the Kasibu. The government cannot help them, because it is in excessive entanglement with Oxiana. In the not-too-distant past, Gloria Arroyo, who occupies the most coveted swivel chair in Malacañang, seduced investors to explore the Philippine mountains for minerals. I heard Sen. Jamby Madrigal state in one forum that during the six months that Mike Defensor sat as DENR Secretary, he issued more or less 4,000 mining permits, almost equal to the number of such permits issued duirng Marcos' 20-year rule! What an unprecedented record.

Many of us labeled Karl Marx insane for saying that the State is nothing but an instrument for oppression by the ruling class. To be more exact, he said that the Executive is nothing but a committee to manage the affairs of the bourgeoisie.

With all that is happening in Kasibu right now, Marx could not be more right. And anyone who challenges him must remove his/her blinders. Sight, too, is freedom.

Let me express my lament at the abuse of IPs everywhere by reprinting my poem which was previously published by Bulatlat and The Northern Dispatch.

Invisible II
(for the Philippine indigenous peoples)

We were born rich in an abundant land.
Then they saw us and all of a sudden-

We were invisible. They did not see us
when they came to vandalize the burial
grounds of our ancestors to herald the
fabrication of counterfeit lakes and rivers
with strong flux to command brightness
for faraway places they called civilization.
We looked at our future--

We were invisible. They did not see us
when they came with their bulldozers
and made plains of our mountains, our
home and refuge for millions of years.
In the sacrosanct name of development,
they erected chateaus for the bourgeois.
We looked at our home--

We were invisible. They did not see us
when with supercilious air, they flounced
into our florid forest thieving her coins and
jewelry; she is now void inside, threadbare
on the surface, dumped by false gods who
wallow in the brimming briny of her wealth.
We looked at ourselves--

We are the people whose life is the land
The land is departed; so are we demised.
We flounder in the miasma of destitution.
Our invisibility was our strong impotence.
Our invisibility was our victorious defeat.

Our visibility
is our campaign
against invisibility.